Beginning in 2010, a Connecticut man, Almighty Supreme Born Allah, spent over six months in solitary confinement. He was alone for 23 hours a day, allowed to shower just three times a week in underwear and leg shackles, and permitted only one 30-minute visit each week with a family member, whom he was not allowed to embrace, let alone touch. Studies have shown that this kind of isolation can result in clinical outcomes similar to those of physical torture, which is why numerous international human rights bodies have condemned the prolonged use of solitary confinement.
The twist on this twisted set of punishments?
Allah had not been convicted of a crime when he was put in solitary confinement. He sued, and four federal judges agreed with Allah that this treatment during pretrial detention violated his constitutional rights. And yet, he lost his case because of a rule called qualified immunity that the U.S. Supreme Court created in the 1980s. As William Baude, a constitutional law professor from the University of Chicago, explains, “[t]he doctrine of qualified immunity prevents government agents from being held personally liable for constitutional violations unless the violation was of ‘clearly established’ law.”